Conexions: Spin Marvel member Martin France talks to Conexions curator Fiona Talkington on Conexions, UK/Norway ties and on working with Led Zep legend John Paul Jones
How/why did Spin Marvel come about?
“It’s essentially a collaboration between Tim and I, evolving from numerous conversations we’d had during our time working together in various situations. The first time I heard Tim was by chance on somebody’s demo cassette that I happened to stumble across in the early 80’s and my immediate reaction was “who the hell is that!” We’ve since worked together many times on film and TV sessions, avant-garde theatre productions etc. and it’s always been fun. The idea for Spin Marvel was always to record Bass and Drums first, and then let the music take its own form.”
How has it changed over the years?
“ Well the core of the group has always been the same. Terje of course brings his own imagination and technical concepts to the group and it’s a role that both Tim and I couldn’t have fulfilled ourselves. We don’t really speak about the direction the music is going to take prior to the recording process, or where we think we might want to take it, it always suggests a path by itself and Terje is extremely intuitive in understanding this concept and helping it on its way. John Parricelli is someone both Tim and I have worked with for many years. For him to come in during the later stages is just another way of adding shape and dimension to the music because he always brings and adds as much, or sometimes as little as the music suggests. He always knows what to do. So that’s the core of the group. For our second album we decided to add a soloist and Nils-Petter Molvaer was the person we wanted. The way he played on the recording and how he played what he did is still is a mystery to me.”
What’s special for you about this band?
“Not to have a specific agenda towards the music. To have the luxury of bringing together singular musicians who have a similar musical philosophy and who between them have a very broad experience. Even though some aspects of the music (and the process of making it) can be seen as quite technical we don’t want to make it an intellectual endeavour at all. It’s just music for music’s sake and it has to be an emotional experience, that’s what musicians are for isn’t it? To lift the notes off the paper and create a feeling or emotion, whatever it may be.”
How/when did your connections with Norway begin?
“I first became aware, and eventually met many Norwegian musicians through Django Bates. He started making inroads into the Norwegian scene, working with many Norwegian musicians in the mid 80’s. He recorded with Sidsel Endresen and Nils-Petter for ECM and I was lucky enough to tour with this band when Jon Christensen was unavailable, which I enjoyed very much. We also found ourselves recording for ECM and subsequently working in Europe together on the same bill as Masqualero, Jon Balke, Bugge Wesseltoft and others and we enjoyed each other’s company very much, and of course their music made a big impression on me.”
How did you first meet Terje?
“I first met Terje about ten years ago; he had applied to audition for a place on a jazz course at one of the London colleges. Of course his main instrument is the drums but I soon found out that he was very technically minded and worked extremely well with computer software. I was recording music of my own and had been experimenting with various electronic drums for a few years so we started to collaborate together on various projects and found that the combination worked well - what one of us couldn’t do, the other one could! I gradually started sending him more and more musical sounds and ideas, particularly when Tim and I started recording together and that was how the original sound concept for Spin Marvel came about. As much as we try, as musicians we cannot do everything so finding and working with the right people is crucial and it’s been very inspiring to make music with Terje.”
What do you admire about the Norwegian scene?
“The underlying and almost unspoken rules essential for making music and what its purpose is in the world. Music is a very direct way to people’s imagination, and unlike some other art forms as far as the listener is concerned it generally has only one interpretation, certainly without the need for intellectual over emphasis. I think there’s a deep underlying confidence in cultural heritage, which is prevalent in many European cultures and this is naturally channelled through music. Of course this is true in the UK too but for various reasons it seems a little more difficult to somehow tap in to it, but some artists and composers manage it!”
Is there something we can learn from them? Or that they can learn from us?
“I’m sure there is, but the best way to find this is we just have to keep making music together and see where we end up. To survive as a musician is very different from country to country and that’s why it’s interesting to collaborate because it’s a challenge and it doesn’t always work. But like most things if it intuitively feels good from the very first note then it’s the right thing. That’s why this project has been a very positive and enjoyable experience for me, to have the friendship, musical empathy and compassion from these very special musicians.”
How did John Paul Jones become involved with the band and what does he bring to it?
“It turned out that for our performance at last year’s Cheltenham Jazz festival Tim was already committed to a long tour so the original idea was to play without bass. But as a drummer I couldn’t imagine playing without a bass player but I was stuck as to where to look. John Parricelli had just worked alongside John with Mark Anthony Turnage and suggested I approach him. I knew that he had already been collaborating with a number of Norwegian improvisers such as Helge Sten and was already known for his performances at Punkt. I believe Nils Petter had also been speaking to him with a possibility to doing something in the future so the link was already there. As it turned out his approach towards the band was absolutely perfect! We all just turned up and played, it was as easy as that thanks to his incredible spirit and generosity towards us all, and the music. I’m very interested in his more experimental set up which we weren’t able to fully exploit in Cheltenham, but now we have another chance which I’m very much looking forward to.”
Read more on the Conexions concert series here.